In the human T-cell lymphoma line, HuT 78, proliferation and phorbol ester-induced growth arrest and differentiation were inhibited by the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, staurosporine. By contrast, an alternative PKC inhibitor, H-7, inhibited proliferation but not phorbol ester-induced growth arrest. The cell line was found to contain both alpha and beta isoforms of PKC by Western blot techniques. A cell line, K-4, was cloned from HuT 78 in the presence of H-7 and this clone was found to be positive for PKC-alpha only. PKC-beta did not return on cultivation in the absence of H-7. Proliferation of K-4 was insensitive to inhibition with both H-7 and staurosporine. However, phorbol ester-induced growth arrest remained staurosporine sensitive. Phorbol-stimulated IL-2 secretion was minimal in the PKC-beta-deficient cell line. These data suggest that PKC-beta may be a regulatory enzyme for proliferation and stimulated interleukin-2 secretion in HuT 78 cells. Heterogeneity of responses to PKC activation may reflect the use of different isozymes in different intracellular pathways. The K-4 cell line should provide a useful tool in the dissection of involvement of PKC isozymes in cellular function.